It seems highly likely that our government soon will be waging a pre-emptive and aggressive war against Iraq. George Bush minor, the man the people rejected but who was installed as president by a partisan Supreme Court, already has dispatched 150,000 troops to the region; it’s hard to believe he got them dressed up for nothing.
Why are we doing this? When the White House is asked, what comes out are eerily the sort of explanations Adolf Hitler used to justify attacking Poland. “Saddam Hussein and his outlaw regime pose a grave threat to the region, the world and the United States,” the Texas National Guard’s most famous draft-dodger says.
Give me a break. When I was a lad we had an enemy worthy of the name, the Soviet Union, with millions of soldiers, nuclear weapons, slave labor camps, a take-over-the-world ideology, the whole no-goodnik catalog. Bush’s daddy’s generation had Nazi Germany and imperial Japan, grave threats in their day indeed.
Now we have to make do with Iraq, a country which isn’t even allowed to fly its own airplanes over much of its territory, and which has virtually the population of Texas. They do, however, have a dozen or so empty canisters that might have held chemical weapons once, so I guess that’s reason enough to kill thousands.
Incidentally, before you get out your crayon to complain that I am a pacifist traitor, let me say that I am certainly not the first, anyway. Though I took some heat from my wife and other progressive friends, I uneasily supported the 1991 Gulf War.
That time, Iraq invaded and took over another country, and many other nations, some of which were Arab and Muslim, supported overturning what was an act of naked aggression and throwing the bums out of Kuwait, which was done. Saddam Hussein is, indeed, an evil gangster whose death would please virtually everybody.
But we helped support and prop him up for years, back when Bush’s daddy was vice president and the telescreens said we should hate Iran even more. And let’s all be honest: If Saddam weren’t sitting on the world’s second-largest oil reserve, he could eat a baby for breakfast every morning and we wouldn’t lift a finger. Instead, the Free Press would occasionally run a brief on Page 8A, under a logo that said something like “News of Weird Dictators,” and that’s about as interested as we’d get.
Rudy Simons, who is indeed a pacifist, is a lot more courageous than I, and one of my heroes. This month he visited Iraq with a group that included the sainted Rev. Thomas Gumbleton and a group of women from an organization called Sept. 11 Families For Peaceful Tomorrows. Every one of them lost someone in the terrorist attacks, and all of them want to avoid seeing more innocents killed in a bloody war.
Simons feels exactly the same way. Incidentally, according to the standards of George Bush and his puppets, Simons is a criminal, since not only has he now traveled twice to Iraq, something verboten by our tumbleweed führer, he has — gasp — taken them small amounts of medical supplies.
That, incidentally, is forbidden under the cruel sanctions imposed after the 1991 war, sanctions which have cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, something acknowledged by our very own State Department.
Technically, he could be fined $10,000 for that horrible deed, as could the Rev. Gumbleton and the survivors. That wasn’t all he risked, however. For Rudy Simons, going to Iraq isn’t something done on a whim. For one thing, he has a wife and a 6-year-old son. For another, he is Jewish, and members of that faith aren’t exactly popular in Saddamland, or elsewhere in most of the Middle East.
Imagine what might have happened if Dubya’s trigger finger had gotten itchy early. But knowing the risks, Simons thought it was important to bear witness. He found that “the [Iraqi] people seemed very concerned and worried about the coming war,” the biggest change since he was there in 1999.
Then as now, the hospitals didn’t have adequate supplies, the water was badly polluted, in part because of the destruction from the war, and many buildings bombed by us then had not been restored. While his group met with a few officials, he mainly tried to talk to common people. “Most of them didn’t even mention Saddam Hussein, despite what you see on the news all the time.”
What the University of Baghdad students he met and the doctors and nurses he saw in various hospitals wanted to talk about instead was that they didn’t want to be blown apart by bombs because our boss hates their boss.
“I wanted to bear witness too that not all Americans agree with our government,” said Sturdy Rudy, who intends to do all he can to refuse, resist and speak out against this war. (E-mail me if you’d like him to speak to a group, and I’ll pass it on.)
Simons has been on to the scam for a long time. Drafted during the Korean War, he was ordered to teach psychological warfare to the troops. One day, the government sent down the official definition of psywar.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t allowed to see it; it was deemed top secret. Half a century later, Simons thinks he has figured it out. Remarkably, so have some of my students, including Diana Christensen, who is 21, of Filipino heritage, and who rode the bus to march in a frozen Washington, D.C., on Saturday, even though she had to work all day Sunday. “My family thinks I am nuts, but this war makes no sense to me,” she said. When she got back, she knew she was right. And she knows now that she is not alone.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail comments to [email protected]